A place that may typically be overwhelming for the neurodivergent family and friends in your life is officially crafting a special space for them to enjoy a day of fun and one of the Sunshine State's favorite fruits. Plant City's Florida Strawberry Festival took to social media 9 hours ago with the announcement, dubbing the unique effort Special Smiles Day — and an extra little perk is in store for the first 1000 Special Smiles Visitors through the gate.
"On Friday, March 3rd we're welcoming in guests with special needs - our most treasured guests - to enjoy a sensory considerate morning at #BerryFest23." the Instagram post reads, in part. "Each Special Smiles VIP and one guest will be admitted free to the Festival between 9 am and noon."
The post continues on to briefly acknowledge the sponsor of the event, Plant City's local Rotary Club.
According to their website, each VIP guest will be provided a map upon arrival, with available rides and attractions clearly marked for ease of navigation. A "Sensory Safe Space" is located at Neighborhood Village, near the Kiddie Korral. Special VIPS and their families can also get photos taken with Mr & Miss Berry between 9 and 10 am.
Tickets for Special Smiles Day VIPS and their one free companion can only be received at Gate 5. Any additional family members wanting to accompany their Special VIP can purchase tickets at regular price at Gate 5 as early as 9 am. Advance purchased tickets will also be accepted at Gate 5 anytime after 9 am.
Tickets at the gate are $10 per adult 13 and over at the door, with tickets for kids 6 to 12 going for $5, and children 5 and under getting in for free. You can save a couple bucks on general admission by purchasing online here rather than at the gate.
If you happen to show up to the Gate bright and early for Special Smiles Day, you'll also have a chance to save a little on your snacks. The first 1000 VIPS to enter Special Smile Day will receive a $5 food voucher coin. The vouchers will be accepted at any Kiddie Korral or Armory Back vendor. These can be found near East Independent.
Guests needing a wheelchair or wagon can find them available for rent at Gates 1, 14, 15, and the Tour Bus Lot across from Gate 10.The Strawberry Fest kept everything in mind, including the parking.
The Palmetto Street Lots have been specially sectioned off for Special Smiles Day VIP use. Signage will be posted on-site. Parking is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis; however, overflow parking is also available for a fee at privately owned lots. Locations include Bryan Elementary and Tomlin Middle Schools. The festival's Raleigh and Doris Fletcher handicapped lot across from Gate 1 is also available for a $10 fee.
For more information about Special Smiles Day, click here. To purchase regular-priced tickets to the Florida Strawberry Festival, check out their website here.
Article by Rachael Volpe